There are few charges a student can face that are more serious than sexual misconduct. Many people make the mistake of believing that if it happens in college, the punishment can't be too bad. It's true that your school can't send you to prison. It can expel you, though, and that usually comes with a transcript notation about the precise nature of your offense. That could very well prevent you from enrolling anywhere else. For all practical purposes, your academic career could be over, and we all know the statistics about workers who don't have a college education.
It gets worse: It's no easy task to defend yourself from such charges. Judicial procedures are complicated, and in today's political climate, you can expect your school to favor your accuser as much as it can. Even if you are entirely innocent, you'll have trouble convincing others of this fact.
You do have one important advantage: you're allowed to select an advisor to help you prepare your case, and that advisor can be an attorney. So, if you've been accused, take it seriously. Learn all you can about Title IX and how Title IX investigations work. Find out what happens if your offense isn't covered under Title IX. Then, contact Joseph D. Lento to represent you. Sexual misconduct allegations are serious business, and you can't afford to try and handle this situation all on your own.
Title IX Sexual Misconduct
Bellevue College deals with most sexual misconduct allegations using guidelines set forth by Title IX. As for Non-Title IX cases, they're ultimately influenced by Title IX as well. Preparing for your defense, then, means finding out as much as you can about this federal law.
Title IX, passed in 1972, was intended to reduce sexual discrimination in US education programs. In ordinary usage, “discrimination” means unequal treatment. In the fifty years since Title IX was passed, however, “discrimination” has come to mean “harassment,” and that has been taken to include almost any sexually-based offense, from simple verbal intimidation to sexual assault and rape.
Under Title IX, the government requires schools to investigate all but the most spurious allegations of sexual misconduct. Schools that refuse to cooperate risk their funding. In addition, the government has created an extensive list of rules for exactly how schools must conduct all investigations.
- Cases originate with your school's Title IX Coordinator. Anyone on campus may report knowledge of an offense, but only a Complainant (alleged victim) or the Coordinator may sign an official complaint against you.
- If you are charged with a Title IX offense, you are entitled to a “Notice of the Charges.” This notice should include the name of the Complainant and details of the allegation.
- Additionally, Title IX guarantees you a number of other important rights, including
- The right to be presumed “not responsible” (innocent) until proven “responsible” (guilty)
- The right to an advisor, who may be an attorney
- The right to be treated equally to the Complainant in all matters
- The right to review all evidence against you
- The right to advanced notice of all meetings and proceedings in the case
- The right to be investigated and adjudicated by non-biased individuals
- Once they've served you with notice, the Coordinator appoints an Investigator to the case. This person meets separately with both sides. You should have the opportunity to tell your story, offer up evidence, and suggest witnesses.
- At the conclusion of the investigation, the Investigator is tasked with writing an unbiased summary of their findings. Both sides then have ten days to review this document and suggest any revisions before it is forwarded to the Title IX Coordinator.
- Once the Coordinator receives the Investigative Report, they set a date and time for a live hearing.
- Title IX hearings at Bellevue College are conducted by the Student Conduct Committee.
- At the hearing, you may make arguments, present evidence, and call witnesses to testify on your behalf. In addition, you may—through your advisors—cross-examine each other and any other witnesses against you.
- After both sides have made their cases, the Student Conduct Committee determines whether or not you are Responsible for a Title IX violation. In making this determination, they use a legal standard known as “Preponderance of Evidence.” Basically, they must find you Responsible if they are more than fifty percent convinced you committed an offense.
- Finally, you have the right to appeal the Student Conduct Committee's findings to the school president.
Non-Title IX Sexual Misconduct
For many years, all sexual misconduct cases were Title IX cases. That's no longer true. In 2020, the Trump administration revised Title IX definitions and guidelines, setting off a protracted debate that continues today. Among other changes, the administration narrowed the meanings of “discrimination” and “harassment” and limited schools' jurisdictional authority. As a result, some previous offenses, such as sexual misconduct occurring at off-campus sites, were no longer covered under the law.
A number of schools, including Bellevue College, responded to these changes by re-writing their own school policies to make sure these incidents wouldn't fall through the cracks. Keep in mind that because these so-called “non-Title IX” cases aren't subject to federal law, schools are under no obligation to follow any particular set of procedures or to provide students with any particular due process rights.
Bellevue College handles non-Title IX allegations using the same procedures it uses for all other disciplinary misconduct. While these procedures do provide some basic protections to respondents, you are still vulnerable to injustice. For instance:
- The same official who decides whether an allegation warrants an investigation conducts the actual investigation, an inherent conflict of interest
- You are only entitled to a hearing if you are facing expulsion
- Your advisor is not permitted to question witnesses during hearings
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help?
Again, one of your key rights in a sexual misconduct case is the right to an attorney-advisor. Make sure you use this right wisely.
Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified defense attorney. He's not just any defense attorney, though. Joseph D. Lento is what's known as a Title IX attorney. That means he specializes in handling campus sexual misconduct cases. He understands Title IX, its history, and its politics, but he's also experienced in dealing with non-Title IX cases. Joseph D. Lento has dedicated his career to fighting for student rights. Over the years, he has handled hundreds of cases for students just like you, making sure they're treated fairly and that they get the justice they deserve.
If you or your child has been accused of sexual misconduct, don't wait to act. The school is already preparing its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-555-3686 or use our automated online form.